Finding a job or internship with no work experience is difficult for anyone in the U.S., but it’s especially difficult for international students.

Many international students do not have any professional contacts in the U.S., and they face additional barriers to employment such as language and cultural differences. International students also have to navigate confusing paperwork and processes to be able to legally work in the U.S.

To help with all this, we compiled some tips to make your journey to your first job or internship in the U.S. as smooth as possible. 

How to Get Your First Job or Internship in the U.S.

International students have access to tons of great employment resources through their university. The international student office can help you navigate the requirements of working in the U.S. including how to apply for the Curricular Practical Training (CPT) program and the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. CPT allows you to work for up to 12 months in a job related to your area of study while you are at university. OPT is similar to CPT but can be used after you graduate while you are still in the U.S. 

For more general information on internships and on-campus jobs, the career center at your university can be a great resource. They have career counselors who assist students in mapping out their academic and career interests and goals. Whether you are an undergraduate or graduate student, your school’s career center is worth a visit. 

Learn more about the OPT program for international students from Interstride’s blog.

Networking Is Key

According to recent research, up to 80% of jobs are gained through networking. Networking means interacting with other people to develop professional connections and increase your access to potential job opportunities. Here are 3 tips for networking as an international student in the U.S.:

  • Speak to your faculty and professors for industry connections   Go to your professors’ office hours. They may know of on and off- campus jobs and internships, and share industry connections. Faculty and professors can also provide a recommendation letter or reference for you.
  • Network with international alumni Attend networking events on and off-campus to meet international alumni. Talk to them about their experiences working in the U.S. They may know of companies that are hiring international students. You can also connect with international alumni on LinkedIn or Interstride. Some universities even have mentorship programs to connect you with senior international students and alumni. Inquire at your university’s international student office.
  • Research companies that sponsor and recruit international students More and more companies are starting to see the value in hiring international students. Network with these companies using LinkedIn or by attending job fairs. 

Gaining Work Experience in the US

On-campus jobs are a great way to build up work experience in the U.S. Visit your university’s career center for assistance finding the right on-campus position for you. These positions often correlate with your field of study to help prepare you for your career after graduation. 

For international students with no work experience, It may be worth it to take an unpaid internship. This allows you to build your resume with U.S. locations listed on it. Volunteer experience and academic achievements should be highlighted on an international student’s resume. Career center counselors can help international students with no work experience write a strong resume. 

Find Companies That Are Hiring International Students Now

Log on to the Interstride Portal to find opportunities for on-campus work, internships and companies that are looking to hire international students. Our network was designed by international students, for international students, so we understand the specific challenges that you face when seeking work opportunities in the U.S. That’s why we provide resources and job opportunities for international students even if they have no previous work experience.

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